Surfers Drive Woodies

Rake & The Surftones

Westcoast Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Tommy Johnson

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/24/2002

I've never been much of a surf-music fan. Not until I head this great CD, that is. We've heard Michael Kamen team up with a hardrock band, we've also heard Celine Dion and Natalie Cole sing duets with late artists. But have we heard LA's slickest studio musicians play surf? I sure haven't.

First of all; Lots of people don't consider The Beach Boys as a surf group. The reason why, is because they think of surf as strictly instrumental. This is the case of this CD, with the exception of two vocal tunes.

Not many persons can give this somewhat "forgotten" genre justice. I believe that there's two kinds of people who know how to play surf: surfers with guitars or studio-musicians with guitars. Either you are a surfer with lots of feeling for the music, or you are a great studio musician. In this case, the ones involved are both.

Jay Graydon (Rake), the founder of Rake and the Surftones, is a legendary studio guitarist. Remember the solo on Steely Dan's "PEG"? That's him. He's been nominated for a Grammy award 12 (!) times and has won two. But before his days in the L.A music scene, Sept '64 to be exact, he heard a sound that would change his life forever. The local surf band was playing at his 9th grade dance! He had no idea what the guitars and amps were but they looked and sounded like heaven to his ears. The next day he asked one of the guitar players to educate him regarding the guitars and amps. He replied that his guitar is a Fender Stratocaster, the other guitar player plays a Fender Jazzmaster and their amps are Fender Tremoluxe's with Fender "tank" reverbs. Graydon asked him what the "lever" on his guitar was for. He said it was a "tremolo bar" that allows the player to "bend down and vibrato" the pitch of the guitar.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A few days later, Graydon asked two other guitar players at school to jam surf tunes at his house, with Graydon playing the drums. That Saturday was a blast. They decided to jam the next day too, so the guitar players left their guitars and amps at Graydon's house. He played all night on those guitars, and learned how to play all the songs they had played that day. It was so much fun.

That's how it all started. Now, 30+ years later he revisits this era of music that was so much fun.

This CD was recorded after Graydon had bought a brand new studio (the older one got destroyed in an earthquake), so it was the perfect time to try it out. He invited lots of his friends into the studio, and this is the result of those jams. The list of musicians is incredible; Sleep Richard Hueneme (Dean Parks), Ed Hudu (David Hungate), Stan "Haight" Ashbury (Joseph Williams), Paco Pt. Loma (Jason Scheff), Poop Fiction (Steve Lukather), Bobby "Surf Chops" Waxer (Bobby Cochran), Tremolo Bar Tim (Tim May), H.R Puffin' Stuff (Dan Huff) and many more.

16 great tracks- no covers! The first tune, "Gotta Woodie Today", has a great flowy sound to it. Great guitars, magnificent Hammond B3 playing and the surfiest drums you've heard since The Ventures topped the charts 40 years ago. A basic surf beat, a great melody - a perfect start. Even though I'm sitting hear in the north of Sweden with tons of snow around me, it feels like I'm on the top of a wave in sunny California, or… Oxnard?

Yes, "October in Oxnard" is the name of one of the two vocal numbers on this CD. Has there ever been a song written about Oxnard in the past? I don't think so. Just listen to the lyrics, "October… in Oxnard… is groovy". Quite humorous. The vocals are handled greatly by the son of composer John Williams - Joseph Williams. You might remember the TOTO hit "Pamela" from 1986. That one is written and sung by Joe Williams since he was their lead singer at that time.

One of the highlights on this CD is the "Surfer Toe Jam", it features many well known names. 27 guitarists. Over 10 minutes of pure fun. And that is the theme that keeps coming back… These guys seems to have so much fun recording the CD, that you can actually hear it. How about this? Guitar-magician Steve Lukather is credited for handclaps!

You'd expect this cd to be released in the California area, but that's not the case. It was released by the great Westcoast Records in Sweden. Westcoast Records released a number of great CD's in the middle of the 90's, but unfortunately, they no longer exist.

This is a very honest album, and as surf legend Phil Dirt once wrote "…it shows hope for mainstream studio players to 'get it' about surf music". Surf's up!

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2002 Tommy Johnson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Westcoast Records, and is used for informational purposes only.